Eat your way to healthier skin

There’s no doubt that glowing youthful skin can make drastic improvements to your appearance and self confidence.  Apart from the aesthetic benefits of good skin, our skin is actually a reflection of our inner health. The beauty industry is a multi billion rand industry. A good skin care regime is important. However, healthy skin starts from the inside.  A healthy balanced diet rich in key nutrients can help us put our best face forward.

Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies. It is made up of 3 layers.  The epidermis (outer tissue), Dermis (underlying skin) and the subcutaneous tissue.  It helps protect our internal body from the environment.  Our skin is important for wound healing, regulating our body temperature as well as our immune response. An adequate daily supply of nutrients in our everyday diet is essential for providing our bodies with enough energy, building and protecting our organs (including skin) and also for metabolic processes.

Antioxidants and free radicals

Free radicals can be defined as molecules with an unpaired electron.  Therefore, this makes them unstable. These molecules are over-active. Free radicals are known to cause damage to the skin cells and collagen production. Over a period of time, this can result in wrinkles, sagging and rough skin.

The only way free radicals become balanced is by attaching themselves to the nearest healthy cell.  This causes the healthy cell to become unstable and therefore causing damage.  Antioxidants help remove free radicals by neutralizing these molecules.  It is important to regularly include a range of antioxidants in our diet.

Important antioxidants and nutrients in skincare:

Nutrient

Action

Food sources

Vitamin A Our bodies convert beta carotene to vitamin A.  Beta carotene protects against erythema(reddening of the skin due to injury or irritation) caused by the sun. Sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, tomato, mango, spinach, kale, chicken/beef liver, egg yolk
Vitamin C Vitamin C and E (antioxidants) react with free radicals to eliminate/ minimize their destructive effect.  Antioxidants effectively reduce free radical damage of collagen and elastin (fibres supporting skin structure).  This prevents wrinkles and premature aging. Vegetables and fruit are the best sources: Peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cantaloupe,  tomato, guava, mango, citrus fruit, pineapple, papaya
Vitamin E Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, vegetable oil, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, olive oil
Zinc A zinc deficiency is associated with low healing of skin wounds, skin rashes, hair loss as well as bacterial infections. Whole grains, dairy products, sea food, lean meat, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds
Selenium  An antioxidant which is responsible for the elasticity of our skin tissue as well as an important component of the enzyme glutathione peroxide.  A deficiency is associated with hyperpigmentation of the skin. Tuna, salmon, eggs, brazil nuts, brown rice, whole wheat bread, garlic
Curcumin Promotes faster healing of skin wounds by increasing collagen production and cell production as well as decreasing free radicals.  Curcumin is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric spice

High GI foods and acne

When we eat carbohydrate containing foods, our blood sugar rises.  The glycaemic index (GI) ranks food from 1 to 100 which describes how fast carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed in the blood.  The higher the rise in sugar in the blood, the more insulin is produced to store it.  Studies show that over time this will cause increased insulin levels which can lead to inflammation. High GI foods can also increase hormones which increase oil production in our skin. Inflammation, together with the increased oil production, can in turn contribute to acne.  Therefore, we should be choosing brown, whole grain and whole wheat carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates and sugars.

Hydrate your skin from within

Water is the main component of cells and tissues. If the epidermis layer (outermost layer) of our skin does not contain enough water, skin will lose its elasticity and feel very rough. Therefore, make sure you get your 8 cups of water a day to keep your skin hydrated.  Further causes of dry dehydrated skin include smoking, too much sun exposure, drinking too much alcohol, a poor diet, lack of sleep, high stress levels and your genes. Learn how to creatively hydrate your body here.

Get your blood pumping

Be active! Exercise can improve blood flow to the skins surface which in turn contributes to a rosy glow. Therefore, exercise helps to nourish skin cells. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to cells in the body, as well as the skin. It also helps to carry away waste products such as free radicals. Stress levels have also been improved through exercise which can have a positive effect on skin conditions such as acne and eczema. Aim for a minimum workout of 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

If you are struggling to follow a healthy balanced diet, a Registered Dietician can develop an individualized meal plan developed for your specific needs.  This can ensure you get in all your key nutrients.  If you have persistent skin issues, it would be beneficial to consult a dermatologist.